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PhD Research Topics


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I can't think of anything that I am super passionate about, but I do know I want a PhD. I've been working in industry for a few years and I'm used to getting an open assignment and finishing it.

I know PhD programs usually keep a running list of topics that they want done. Does anyone know where I can find these? It would be best if I could just pick a topic and bang out the work, as a bonus I would know its a topic the university is looking for someone to do.

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Hey zerocover. This is an interesting question. I never thought that schools had lists of topics like the ones you're suggesting. However it's perfectly plausible that schools are looking for people with talent or interest in particular areas. I see that you're looking at engineering programs. Perhaps there is a bit more leeway for applicants in engineering who are eager to research but haven't figured out their specific interests. I'm applying to Ph.D programs in the humanities and I'm almost 100% positive that no admissions officer would read past "I can't think of anything I am super passionate about, but I know I want a Ph.D" [obviously no one would write that explicitly (...I hope) but if that were the general tone in one's personal statement, I'm certain it'd be an instant rejection at most places]. I'm not sure how personal statements work in engineering. If you could somehow find these lists you've mentioned, definitely try to sound at least interested (and ideally: excited) about... something... anything! All that said, the most important thing is to be genuine! I have friends in the humanities who told me that they chose obscure subjects about which hardly anyone had written - and indeed, in which they had little or no interest at all - just so that their applications would stand out. Those that were actually accepted ended up not being so happy working on their chosen author/artist/time period/topic, etc. Remember that a Ph.D is quite the time commitment, so you might as well be doing something about which you are passionate.

These are just general remarks from a more humanities/social sciences-oriented person (but I do hope they're somewhat helpful). For a more specific answer to your question, I defer to other engineers.

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I suggest you look up professor's profiles and maybe even look at papers they publish to get an idea. Maybe also find out what's the hot topic for your field and see if you would like to go into that. At least get a general idea of what are the topics you don't mind working on. I would agree with JoeySsance that ad comms would want to see that you have a direction. Sometimes I feel like passion comes with a bit of knowledge. You know a bit about this topic then you find it more interesting, so i suggest read up and find out more.

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